As a result of the current crisis/war in Lebanon anti-Zionist sentiments prevail again, as they did in 2002 following the Israeli reoccupation of Jenin and the siege of the Muqata (see also Sever Plocker's excellent column
). At an anti-Israel demonstration in Amsterdam, organized by the Green Party, the Socialist Party and several Palestinian and Arab organizations, people shouted in Arab: "Jews, the army of the prophet is coming". Others yelled: "Bush, Blair, Bot (Dutch minister of foreign affairs) terrorists". The leader of the Green Party, an otherwise sensible, reasonable and smart woman, explained on the radio that she saw no problem in these kind of slogans, and that they were not aggressive. I wonder what she would say if right-extremists would shout: "Muslims, watch out, the army of the crusaders is coming". At an anti-Israel demonstration in Australia, Gaza and Lebanon were called "Israel's Holocaust". I read more than once in recent weeks articles by people explaining that the creation of Israel was a crime against the Palestinians, that it happened with cunning and deceit, that the Jews wanted to expel all the Palestinians from the start to make room for their exclusivist Jewish state.
Many of these people don't call themselves anti-Zionist though, and hold that they are willing to accept Israel's existence as an accomplished fact, but Israel should be grateful for that 'acceptance' according to those people, and keep a low profile, as Israel's mere existence is an injustice to the Palestinians and hence Israel is in debt to them by definition. This view is commonplace among much of the European left and explains why every Israeli act of violence is condemned, while Palestinian/Arab violence is trivialized as acts of despair or even excused as legitimate resistance. 'The occupation is the cause of all the violence, and if Israel withdraws from all Palestinian territories there will be peace', is one of their mantras, as well as the allegation that before Zionism all people in the Middle East lived happily and in harmony. It is also widely believed that Israel was created because of the Holocaust, and Zionism is viewed as an European invention. After the Holocaust we Europeans redeemed our guilt by giving land that wasn't ours to the Jews, and so we made the Palestinians bleed for our sins. This 'progressive' line is echoed by none other than Iranian President Ahmadinejad, the reactionary head of a theocratic state.
These people also like to tell the Jews that they are safer outside Israel than within Israel. They only want the best for Israel and the Jews, they claim, but those stubborn Israelis don't see this and don't follow their well meaning advice.
Needless to say that there are some appalling blind spots in these views and also in the coverage of the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict in much of the European press. A rebuttal list of the most important European myths:
Jews and Arabs did NOT live harmoniously and happily together until those evil Zionists came. Jews were second class citizens, were treated with contempt, had to pay extra taxes, and were not allowed to have weapons. A very common practice in many Arab countries was 'Ada', stone throwing at Jews. There was relative 'harmony' because the Jews accepted their subordinated position.
Zionism is not a European invention, and Jews were a nation long before the emergence of political Zionism. Most of their holy days have also a national meaning, and at Pesach they wish each other 'next year in Jerusalem'. Jews have had a physical and spiritual tie to the land of Israel throughout the centuries.
Zionism was a largely secular movement, inspired by socialist ideals about equality, and achieving freedom and self fulfillment by working and developing the land with their own hands (Jews were forbidden to possess land in most countries most of the time). It was not aimed at creating an exclusivist Jewish state where all Arabs would be expelled, nor was it based on the Biblical promise of God to the Jewish people. Actually, most religious Jews were initially anti-Zionist because they believed only the Messiah could lead the Jewish people to the Promised Land. Zionists aimed at restoration of the Jewish people in their ancient homeland, and thought this was the only way to solve the problem of persecution, discrimination and humiliation they suffered as a minority in other countries.
Zionists thought to achieve a Jewish majority by mass immigration, not by expelling Arabs. They envisioned mass immigration of Russian Jews, of which there were several millions, and other European Jews as well as Jews from Arab countries. Russian Jews were however not allowed to emigrate after the Communist Revolution, and in the 1930's immigration to Palestine was increasingly restricted by the British authorities, in breach with the mandate given by the League of Nations, precisely because the British understood that creating a Jewish majority was unacceptable to the Arabs.
Israel/Palestine was not exactly given to the Jews on a golden tray. They settled and built up the country against all odds since before the beginning of the last century. The League of Nations granted a mandate for creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine over two decades before the Holocaust. The British mandate was paid for by Jewish tax money, and all land the Jews settled before the creation of the state was bought and paid for with their own money. Europe or the UN did not give away what was not theirs, but allowed Jews to settle on a part of their ancient homeland, and later granted them the right to self determination on part of a part of this land, giving away most of it to the Arabs. This decision was not enforced in any way after the Arabs rejected it, and many believed the Jews were not able to defend it successfully anyway.
The expulsion and flight of about 700.000 Palestinian Arabs during the 1948 war happened after the Arabs made it very clear that their goal was to expel the Jews. They started a war because they did not accept the 1947 partition plan. The most important Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al Husseini, was a Nazi collaborator and fled the Nuremberg trials. He explained to the British that he wanted to implement Hitler's solution to the Jewish problem in Palestine. Before he had instigated several Arab revolts, some resulting in pogroms in which many Jews were killed. He also had many moderate Arab leaders killed.
Arab anti-Semitism is not a reaction to 'Zionist violence' or the occupation. In March of 1921, Musa Kazim El Husseini, deposed as Mayor of Jerusalem because of his part in riots earlier that year, told Winston Churchill:
The Jews have been amongst the most active advocates of destruction in many lands... It is well known that the disintegration of Russia was wholly or in great part brought about by the Jews, and a large proportion of the defeat of Germany and Austria must also be put at their door.
(Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, Knopf 1999 Page 99)
King Saud told the British in 1937:
Today we and our subjects are deeply troubled over this Palestine question, and the cause of our disquiet and anxiety is the strange attitude of your British Government, and the still more strange hypnotic influence which the Jews, a race accursed by God according to His Holy Book, and destined to final destruction and eternal damnation hereafter, appear to wield over them and the English people generally.
Arab anti-Semitism is one of the root causes, not a result, of the Israeli-Arab conflict and it still plays a big and nasty role in it. Hundreds of millions of Arabs are being flooded with the most disgusting anti-Semitic propaganda on a daily basis, like Holocaust denial, Israelis injecting Palestinian kids with the AIDS virus, Jews killing Christian children to bake Matzo's, Jews stealing the organs of Palestinian children, Jews controlling all of the western media and aiming to rule the world, denial of the Jewish ties to Jerusalem, and so on and so on. No wonder people believe some of this crap and think Israel is an exclusivist Jewish state with concentration camps for Palestinians in it, and hence feel it should be destroyed.
The sad thing is, that in our free European press there is little attention to this, and on the contrary, some of it is echoed in a less extreme way in some of the European press
, and people who expose Arab anti-Semitism are often accused of being islamophobes who fan the flames of the conflict and of the tensions between Arabs and Europeans.
It is about time we European progressives stop being judgemental towards Israel, and become more humble in our criticism of its policies. The Jews have enough reason to distrust European intentions regarding their country and their wellbeing.Ratna Pelle
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Replies: 1 Comment
Jon Gallant, Tuesday, July 25th
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